Arizona Basketball: Wildcats need to focus on Front Court Depth

The 2016 recruiting class has continued to climb for Sean Miller and Arizona Basketball. With several scholarships still to fill, the Wildcats have hit the recruiting trail hard.

If you are like me, the second the game against Wichita State ended, you began to think about the 2016-2017 season. And why shouldn’t I? As much as I hoped to see a run in the NCAA tournament, I knew coming into this season that this could be a “down year.” We’ve been spoiled at Arizona for the past four years. That’s what happens when you have great players like TJ, Stanley, Rondae, B-Ash, and Gordon come through and overlap each year.

We nabbed great recruits in Allonzo Trier, Justin Simon, Chance Comanche, and Ray Smith. But Smith tore his ACL and was out for the entire year. Justin Simon rarely played, even though I was a big fan of his, and is looking around at schools like St. John and Oklahoma State. We didn’t see much of Chance until later in the year, but what we did see should excite the fans for his sophomore year.

Trier played the most out of the newest recruits, averaging 14.8 points per game while missing six weeks due to a broken hand. So realistically, this team only saw one recruit from the 2015 class play significant minutes. Well, as we’ve seen over the past couple of months, you better believe this won’t be the case in 2016.

Remember back in August 2015 when T. J. Leaf announced he was de-committing from Arizona? And in January, when the only commit Sean Miller had been Lauri Markkannen? This was when we began to see the stories and tweets about how Sean Miller couldn’t recruit, Arizona is no longer elite, and even people were saying Miller should be let go. Add that to the fact that the team wasn’t playing the greatest, and it was a perfect storm for the cynical fans to come out in full force. That didn’t phase Miller one bit as he had a message for those critics.

January 21, 2016; Stanford, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller instructs during the first half against the Stanford Cardinal at Maples Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

January 21, 2016; Stanford, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller instructs during the first half against the Stanford Cardinal at Maples Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

“Those who have given up on our ability to strike in the class of 2016 are really going down the wrong path.”

A few months later and Arizona has the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation, according to Scout.com. Having four 5-star recruits will do that to a team as Lauri Markkannen, Kobi Simmons, Rawle Alkins, Terrance Ferguson have all since committed to play for the Arizona Wildcats, with Terrance Ferguson being the newest commit.

Yes, Miller has four 5-star recruits committed, and he still plans on adding another two/three commits before the 2016 class is complete.

Even with just the four Arizona currently has committed, and with who is coming back, most teams would think that is enough. Here is a look at how each position would break down if the recruiting class were completed today:

There’s no hiding that Miller’s incoming class, and his group of returning players, is guard heavy. Kadeem, Kobi, Trier, Rawle, and Ferguson can all play multiple positions. Ray Smith, being 6’9″ and adding a lot of strength since being on campus and coming back from ACL surgery, can move from SF to PF in a small-ball lineup.

Chance can play both PF and C whenever Miller needs it, and maybe even Lauri.

Miller finally has enough length and athleticism to match teams like Oregon, who want to run, and use their length/athleticism as an advantage. Yes, this team is very young compared to this past season. But the young guns are capable of owning their role, and playing immediately.

Dec 16, 2015; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats center Chance Comanche (21) dunks the ball during the second half against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks at McKale Center. Arizona won 92-37. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 16, 2015; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats center Chance Comanche (21) dunks the ball during the second half against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks at McKale Center. Arizona won 92-37. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

If there were a flaw to point out with this roster, it would be the lack of depth at the PF and C position. If the recruiting season for the 2016 class ended today, we’d more than likely see more small ball lineups this coming season then ever before.

Miller and the rest of the Arizona coaching staff need to focus now on building depth in the front court. We were spoiled with having Kaleb Tarczewski man the paint for four years. Miller’s offense relies on the PF and C positions, as does the defense.

With only three true post players, it’s no surprise to hear Miller offering or reaching out to PF and C prospects who are still undecided, transfers, or graduate transfers who are immediately available to play.

Tulane PF graduate transfer Dylan Osetkowski was the first name to pop up this off-season. He’s not a name that stood out to many, but Arizona and Texas were heavily involved. He wouldn’t have been a big time PF threat for Arizona like Ryan Anderson was, but he did average close to a double-double this past season (11.8 ppg, 8 rpg). In the end, before actually taking his planned visit to Tucson, he ended up committing to Shaka Smart and the Texas Longhorns.

In the coverage of whether or not Arizona would land Josh Jackson (ugh.. Kansas) or Terrance Ferguson (YUP!), there hasn’t been much else out there on who Miller is scouting. One name to keep an eye on is Omer Yurtseven, a 6’11” 240 lb 5-star recruit from Istanbul. His recruiting has been coming in hot to all major programs.

For a while, it was believed that Yurtseven would by-pass any college, play for a European team, and then enter the 2017 NBA Draft. Draft Express, as of right now, has Omer Yurtseven listed as a top-10 lottery pick. So when he announced that he plans on coming to the states to develop his game in the college setting, coaches were lining up at the door.

Besides Arizona, Yurtseven currently has been contacted, by Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, Utah, Kentucky, Miami, Duke, and several other schools. On his decision to play in the states, Yurtseven told Scout.com, “I need to go some place that I can to play more and to improve. That’s why I want to go to college.” From that single quote, you get the sense that he is a humble, and smart kid. Arizona should pull out all the stops to bring in Yurtseven. Sure, there is an excellent possibility that he leaves after one year, which isn’t something Miller is too fond of, but a 17-year-old with his talent and length is hard to pass up.

January 7, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Allonzo Trier (11) shoots against UCLA Bruins during the first half at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

January 7, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Allonzo Trier (11) shoots against UCLA Bruins during the first half at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona also has offered an under the radar big man out East, Jordy Tshimanga. Jordy is the definition of “big man” as he is 6’11” 260 lbs. Arizona offered Jordy back in January shortly after Harry Froling committed to SMU.

With Zeus leaving, Miller has since been looking to fill that void with another true Center. Yes, the team still has Dusan Ristic on the roster. Dusan is a better offensive player than Jordy, but Dusan has struggled to catch-up to where the team needs him to be on the defensive end. A big body like Jordy, who once told Desert Swarm that he wants to lead the nation in rebounds, and most balls dived for, would be viewed as the defensive presence down low.

He is only a 3-star recruit but holds offers from other schools like Nebraska, Boston College, Providence, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh. As of right now, Jordy has said he wants to take his visit to Arizona and the other schools. Recently he visited Minnesota and walked away impressed. Unfortunately for Arizona, all signs are pointing to him staying out East, with 247Sports.com having their Crystal Ball predicting 100% to Boston College.

Another name to keep an eye on would be Ben Carter of UNLV. Jon Rothstein tweeted out today that the PF from UNLV  has cut his list to Arizona, ASU, Michigan State, UNLV, Miami, and NC State. The 6’9″ PF originally started out at Oregon before transferring to UNLV, which is where he’s from. This is a player Miller should really close in on. He won’t blow away the viewers with ridiculous athleticism, or an amazing offensive output. But Carter knows the game of basketball and has a good feel inside.

This past season at UNLV he averaged 8.6 ppg, 6 rpg, and averaged 24 minutes a night. He would be a big catch for Miller and company to have coming off of the bench. Since he is a grad transfer, he’d be available to play right away. His knowledge of the game and where he needed to be on the court in certain situations immediately boosts the Arizona frontcourt.

More depth at the PF and C positions will be addressed this off-season. Unfortunately, it’s quiet on the recruiting trail at this moment, at least for the 2016 class. Miller and his staff are going full speed for the 2017 class and have already offered several 5-star caliber players at PF. But remember, Miller is expecting the 2016 class to be about 6 or 7 people.

Even with four 5-star recruits already committed (still waiting for LOI from Ferguson), the class isn’t done. Even though it is a bit quiet right now, I think we have now learned never to doubt Miller. The number 3 class in the nation can only go up from here. BearDown Arizona!